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Friday, February 5, 2016

Rare Swedish and Norwegian Law

Den Norske Low-Bog (Copenhagen, 1604)
Among the interesting historical collections at the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center are significant works of rare Swedish and Norwegian law. These books range from rare medieval law codes, to law dictionaries, to a British printing of Nazi documents seized on Norway's Lofoten Islands during WWII.

The Swedish collection comprises about 50 rare titles. The earliest volume, the Leges Suecorum Gothorumque (1614), is a collection of medieval Swedish law published in Stockholm early in the reign of King Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), the monarch who transformed Sweden into an early modern power. Another of the early volumes, the Lexicon Juris Sveo-Gothici (Uppsala, 1665), defines and traces Swedish legal terms with reference to Roman law, not unlike the De Jure Sveonum et Gothorum Vetusto (Stockholm, 1672), a work on civil and criminal procedure.
Sverikes rikes lagh-boker (Stockholm, 1666)

Many of the early Swedish books have bookplates, signatures and annotations. These important features recently gained the attention of Visiting Professor Eric Bylander, from Uppsala University, who undertook research on the collection this past fall. A rare book collector and expert in heraldry, in addition to his modern legal expertise, Bylander uncovered in our Swedish books interesting connections to noted jurists, families and booksellers, and has continued his research back in Sweden.

The Norwegian law collection contains slightly fewer volumes, though a number are also notable. Among these is the Magnus Lagabøters landslov, an important 13th-century collection of laws promulgated by King Magnus VI (or Magnus Lagabøte, the Law-Mender) of Norway. This past November, Professor Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde visited the Law School from the University of Bergen to lecture on this collection. As Sunde noted, it was one of the most comprehensive law codes in medieval Europe and remained in force for over four centuries. Sunde is currently preparing a critical edition of the text based on a large and complex manuscript tradition, as part of a project he leads at Bergen.  

Notes in Sverikes rikes lagh-boker
Although our collection lacks any manuscripts of the Magnus Lagabøters landslov, the Riesenfeld Center was recently able to acquire a work containing the first printed edition of the text to add to the collection.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections


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